Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Church culture = Hip Hop culture?

Relevant Magazine has a quote posted today from Entertainment Weekly, by Mos Def, on the Jena 6: "Why do people like me expect rappers to be activists when partying, acquiring material goods, and ridiculous posturing have been hip-hop mainstays for so long?"

Yes, why do we think that rappers should be activists? More so why do we believe anyone participating in a culture/movement will be seeking to alter it? Can we alter a culture/movement without addressing the overarching themes? I'm not even going to try and address hip hop culture or answer Mr. Smith's/Mos Def question in a direct fashion but maybe I can address it indirectly. Hip hop at it's foundation, could be argued a post- postmodern interpretation of folk culture who it's self found itself being modernised at the hands of such writers as Zora Neale Hurston and Harlem Renaissance. This issue of re-interpretation from the origin is the same issue arising for cultures that are dependent of a defined art form - be it written, vocal or visual in nature.

The issue is not so much in the reinterpretation, there has always been art created not so much for the benefit or annoyance/growth of the reader, hearer or observer - there has been art derived for self gratification of the creator. There are larger issues, one does art have a valuable, directional changing position in our culture now as it once has? Relationally how does art counteract our culture? Mr. Smith inadvertently highlighted this issue, in that the more controversial an artist is, the more notoriety and in the majority of cases with that comes wealth. With wealth comes the "friends," females and so on, and someone once controversial for the purposes of change has become party to that which they fought against. This issue is not limited to hip hop culture. It has infiltrated itself throughout our society, and right into the heart of the Church.

I could just as easily say "Why do people like me expect Christians to be activists when conferences, acquiring Christian music/books, and ridiculous posturing like foreign missions trips and charity have been Christian mainstays for so long?" So it's not a perfect alteration but the point is the same. Charity and missions trips have become the Christian mainstays in spite of what Mark Driscoll says is our complete ignorance of our own Godlessness and idols. The world sees our complete loss of self and direction and laughs at our gospel, like we laugh at Iran's president. We have no credibility. Our idols surround us, Starbucks (of which I am wholly guilty), sports teams/large screen tv's, TV, malls/fashion and it goes on. We can pack a stadium full of people passionate about speed, but about lives of sincerity and simplicity? I look at the life of a girl I tutor and I see the Church, her highschool missions trip to South Africa was something to add to her list of accomplished events rather than looking beyond her acrylic nails, tennis lessons and horse and seeing our brokenness and issue of justice. AIDS and lack of surival necessities like water are not available. Africa's needs are not first and foremost spiritual, they are first and foremost - education, clean water and peace. But we cannot see that, because we are in every way those "savages" we used to be dying to convert.

Even worse is our belief in charity first and foremost, "charity [is] a word to choke over. Who wants charity? And it was not just human pride but a strong else of dignity and worth, and what was due to [us] in justice"(Day,150).

How do we change the Church when as with hip hop culture the issue is not what the culture/lifestyle/movement was at the origin, is it rather an issue of a collective illness driven by or reflected by the overall culture: over-exposed women, feminism lost, over consumption, unequal distribution of wealth, war mongering/hate fueled, ignorance and compassionless.

Lastly, "Romano Guardini said the Church is the Cross on which Christ was crucified; one could not separate Christ from His Cross, and one must live in the state of permanent dissatisfaction with the Church" (Day, 150).

Are you dissatisfied? Or did McDonald's just satisfy you?

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